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Four years after arriving from Iran, Shayan Shahrabadi has overcome limitless challenges

Lewis and Clark High School senior Shayan Shahrabadi  is photographed in front of the school in Spokane, Wash., on May 21, 2020. Shahrabadi is graduating with the Class of 2020 from Lewis and Clark. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Lewis and Clark High School senior Shayan Shahrabadi is photographed in front of the school in Spokane, Wash., on May 21, 2020. Shahrabadi is graduating with the Class of 2020 from Lewis and Clark. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

When Shayan Shahrabadi and his family immigrated to America from Iran four years ago, they saw unlimited opportunities.

However, at first, Shahrabadi found only limitless challenges in the classroom as a freshman at Lewis and Clark High School.

He spoke barely a word of English, which meant long hours in the English Language Development program and likely little chance to graduate with his peers.

Four years later, Shahrabadi is graduating on time with a 3.7 grade-point average and hoping to become a dentist.

His secret is simple: Just work a little harder. Early in his time at LC, the ELL students were asked to read or write two English-language stories a day.

“I would do six or seven,” said Shahrabadi, whose family began life in America by living in his aunt’s home in Spokane. “It was very hard sometimes – I didn’t know any English and had to get used to my surroundings.”

Shahrabadi and his two younger sisters were pushed to succeed by their parents – his mother is a phlebotomist and his father an art welder – but most of his motivation came from within.

“To me, the thing that stands out is that how quickly he moved toward his goals,” said Bob Adams, his counselor at LC.

“English is not his first language,” Adams said. “Coming into high school he had an opportunity for an education, but he really started his English education here.”

Adams noted that just like everyone else, students in English Language Development program must earn 24 credits in order to graduate; Shahrabadi is on target for 25 1/2.

“It’s difficult for any of our ELD kids to graduate in four years because they get hung up” on the language proficiency requirements, said Bob Adams, a counselor at LC who has worked with Shahrabadi throughout his high school career.

“Shayan is very organized,” Adams said. “He’s kind of a quiet guy, but once you get to know him, he’s a very articulate, thoughtful guy.”

“He’s also very respectful and appreciative,” Adams said.

Once enrolled at LC, Shahrabadi made the most of his opportunity.

His freshman-level classes were supported, “but he moved quickly,” Adams said.

Taking extra classes, Shahrabadi soon moved into general education classes and eventually to Honors geometry and precalculus and Advanced Placement physics.

Shahrabadi shares the credit with his parents and with teacher Lecia Curtis, who leads the ELD program at LC.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her,” Shahrabadi said. “She’s helped me with everything.”

More challenges await. Shahrabadi has been accepted into the University of Washington, where he hopes to major in biology and perhaps become a dentist.

However, financial aid has been complicated by his immigrant status. “We’re still waiting to find out,” Shahrabadi said.

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